The state health commissioner and the state veterinarian from Indiana jointly drafted a Letter to the Editor on July 2, targeting major newspapers across the state to refute claims submitted by a physician, and subsequently published, about the connection between H1N1 and antibiotic use in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

The rebuttal letter, co-authored by Dr. Judith Monroe, Indiana State Health Commissioner and Bret Marsh, DVM, Indiana State Veterinarian, was distributed by Sarah Ford, director of public and industry relations at Indiana Pork. “We are privileged to have two such credible witnesses willing to contribute their expertise on the topic, Ford noted.

Ford encouraged all pork producers to forward the letter to local newspapers to stave off misconceptions about the H1N1 influenza A virus. The rebuttal letter in its entirety reads:

“The novel H1N1 influenza A virus developed because of the reorganization of four different H1N1 flu strains-one common in humans, one native to birds, and two found in pigs. It is very unfortunate the illness caused by this novel virus was called "swine flu" because it caused much confusion. Swine were not infected with this virus and the safety of pork was never in jeopardy. Modern livestock facilities have strict bio-security measures in place to protect animals from getting sick or spreading disease.

“Influenza is caused by a virus and the emergence of the pandemic H1N1 influenza A virus has nothing to do with antibiotics. Bacteria and viruses are two very different microorganisms. Bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics whereas anti-viral medication, like Tamiflu or Relenza, are given to treat viral infections like the flu. Antibiotics do not have any effect on viruses. Although sometimes people are more susceptible to bacterial infections, like pneumonia, if they are already sick from a viral infection, influenza cannot be caused by bacteria or the use of antibiotics.

“Indiana's livestock farmers are committed to protecting public health, and that means using antibiotics responsibly both to protect the health and well-being of livestock and to ensure a safe food supply for consumers. Pork producers use antibiotics for disease treatment, disease control, disease prevention, and health maintenance. Antibiotics are only one tool pork producers use to ensure the health and well-being of their animals. Other tools include preventive measures, such as vaccination, proper nutrition, and providing proper facilities for their animals.

“All antibiotics used by pork producers are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after they undergo rigorous review for safety to animals, humans, and the environment. It is critical that veterinarians and producers have the ability to use antibiotics appropriately to prevent unnecessary animal suffering and ensure food safety.

“In fact, studies have found banning the use of antibiotics can increase public health risks, such as the risks of salmonella outbreaks. In reality, if antibiotic use on farms was stopped, antibiotic resistance in humans would not be eliminated, and food safety may be jeopardized.

“It's an unusual summer when camps are closing due to clusters of ill campers with the flu and baseball players are missing games due to the flu. When new infectious agents emerge, they can cause confusion and it's important not to repeat false information. We all should take precautions and wash our hands, sneeze or cough in a disposable tissue or our sleeve, and stay home when we are sick.

“Why not pass along this message to your friends and loved ones over a nice pork chop dinner?”

The letter was signed by Judy Monroe, M.D., Indiana State Health Commissioner and Bret D. Marsh, DVM, Indiana State Veterinarian.